Passenger car sales for November in the world's two fastest growing emerging markets, India and China, provided a further sign that momentum in the auto industry is shifting to Asia.
China car sales nearly doubled during the month against a year earlier, while in India sales rose 61 per cent on the back of a rebounding economy and a recovery in the auto finance market.
The robust growth in the two markets follows a landmark transaction in Asia this week when General Motors announced it was ceding majority control of its thriving Chinese passenger car venture to SAIC, its state-owned Chinese partner.
The deal was part of a move that will take the Shanghai-Detroit partnership into a new $650m joint venture, under which the two groups will produce low-cost vehicles in India.
The shareholding change could mark a symbolically important shift in the balance of power between carmakers in the US and China, now the world's largest and fastest growing car market.
A total of 1.04m passenger cars were sold in November in China, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said this week, helped by heavy lending by state-owned banks and tax cuts targeted at smaller vehicles.
In the first 11 months of the year, 9.23m passenger cars were sold in China, up nearly 50 per cent from a year earlier and well ahead of the 6.76m vehicles sold in the whole of 2008, official data showed.
The unexpected strength of the Chinese market has bolstered the appetite of some Chinese automakers to make acquisitions of distressed auto assets overseas, although no such deal has yet been completed.
China's market has gone from strength to strength this year, catching auto market analysts and car industry executives off guard, and making east Asia a bright spot in a world automotive industry suffering from the effects of the global financial crisis.
Market analysts are expecting continued growth in early 2010, especially if, as expected, Beijing continues with its programme of lowering the taxes on cars.
In India, vehicle sales growth was boosted by a low base effect from a year earlier but was still ahead of expectations, with suppliers unable to match the pace of the growth.